It's like meeting an old lover, one for whom you've been pining for years. You find there are certain things you've forgotten -- they way he laughs at inopportune times, his annoying taste in music, his penchant for oggling other women. This is a bit how I feel about returning to Africa.
There are many details about life here that I seem to have filtered out of my memories. City hotels, for example -- I had forgotten the lack of running water, the unflushed toilets, the fact that many of them double as brothels. I had forgetten the restless loneliness of long evenings with no one to call and nowhere to go out. Also the blinding frustration of waiting forever for taxis to fill up -- not the waiting itself, that I remember, but somehow I also remember being more patient about it. Maybe I was.
I had forgetten how exhausting it is to walk around town in the heat. Negotiating the shouting, shoving chaos of a big city market with a handbag you're worried about, sore feet, sweat dripping into your eyes and only a foggy sense of where you're going . . . it leaves you longing to collapse in a cool chair with an icy frapucino. Needless to say, there is no Starbucks on the corner.
I thought I had spent enough long, long weeks in Conakry to remember these things, but it's funny the new memories I've been able to dredge up lately!